Water UK has told the government that the water industry aims to cut leakage by 50 per cent by 2050.

In a letter to the environment secretary, Water UK chair, Sir Brian Bender, said the ambition is to cut total leakage in England to around 10 per cent.

The move is in line with recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission and comes ahead of Michael Gove’s expected announcements relating to improved resilience of water supplies.

Bender outlined collective efforts from water companies to engage with customers about their expectations of further material cuts in leakage. The letter said this commitment “reflects a significant departure from the traditional regulatory approach, under which companies have focused on achieving what has been known as the ‘sustainable economic level of leakage’”.

This change in approach requires sustained investment, as well as combining traditional and new techniques for detecting and fixing leaks, explained Bender.

The letter said that the sector will work with customers, government and other stakeholders to reduce per capita consumption (PCC). But Bender insisted that any national target for PCC should be “stretching yet achievable”.

Water UK also said it is keen to work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to assess the “potential positive contribution to be made by public policy in areas such as building regulations, water efficiency labelling, metering and customer-owned supply pipes”.

Responding to the letter, a Defra spokesperson said: “We want a water industry that works for everyone, invests for the future, improves performance and makes sure that bill payers are getting the best possible value for money.

“This commitment from the industry on leakage is a step in the right direction. Customers rightly expect water companies to meet their existing commitments on leakage, and to help them reduce their own water consumption.”

Earlier this month (18 October), Gove took questions on water company performances in the House of Commons.

When questioned on the issue of leakage and water companies’ investment in infrastructure, he said: “One of the things I have said to the water companies is that in the past few years they have spent far too much on financial engineering and not enough on real engineering.

“As a result, new targets have been set to reduce leakage in order to both protect the environment and help consumers.”

Ofwat has urged water companies to deliver a “game change” on leakage and has challenged the sector to reduce leakage by 15 per cent by 2025. The regulator said it will take tough action against companies which do not meet their leakage commitments.